In 1999, former FBI special agent Jane Turner brought to the attention of her management team serious misconduct concerning failures to investigate and prosecute crimes against children in Indian Country and in the Minot, North Dakota community. Turner also reported on misconduct related to the potential criminal theft of property from the 9/11 Ground Zero crime scene in New York City by Minneapolis FBI personnel. Although she was considered one of the best agents working in Indian Country, Turner’s twenty-five year career with the FBI was brought to a halt when she was forced from service as retaliation for what FBI management termed as “tarnishing” the image of the FBI.
After weathering retaliatory reviews, an unwanted transfer, threats of being fired and a resignation under duress, former Minneapolis FBI agent and whistleblower Jane Turner was awarded more than $500,000 in compensation (capped at $360,000 by law) for the agency’s actions following her filing of a sexual discrimination claim.
A U.S. District Court jury in Minneapolis awarded Turner $565,000 — including $60,000 in lost wages and $505,000 for emotional distress and damage to her reputation. “Today is a true vindication for whistleblowers in the FBI,” Turner said after the verdict. Several jurors embraced her, in tears. The 2001 case — dismissed in 2004 and then reinstated in 2005 by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — focuses on Turner’s stint as an FBI agent in Minot, N.D., in 1998 and 1999.
A 20-year agency veteran at the time, Turner, 55, of St. Paul, noted in her lawsuit that she had always received performance ratings of at least “satisfactory” but usually “superior” or “exceptional.” But in 1998, she filed a discrimination claim with the FBI alleging that female agents were not being given equal credit for cases. Turner said her immediate supervisor, Craig Welken, then began to retaliate: not assigning Turner to a high-profile child pornography case involving a North Dakota man named Larry Froistad, who stood accused of distributing child pornography and murdering his 5-year-old daughter.
The then-U.S. attorney for North Dakota, John Schneider, intervened, demanding Turner be placed on the case because of her expertise in investigating crimes against children. “She had already established herself as a leading national expert in profiling and obtaining confessions in child sex crime cases,” said Stephen Kohn, a Washington attorney who served as Turner’s lead counsel.
“She was able to get confessions on these really horrendous child crime cases that nobody else had ever done — that’s why these prosecutors (who worked for the Department of Justice) were willing to come in and testify,” Kohn added, referring to two North Dakota assistant district attorneys who spoke on Turner’s behalf during the trial.
Welken agreed to Schneider’s request, and Turner obtained a confession from Froistad, who was sentenced to life in prison. Schneider later credited Turner for the conviction in a private e-mail to her.
But Turner said Welken criticized her handling of the case, accusing her of “poaching” it from a male agent and “sandbagging” him with Schneider.
Turner complained to Welken’s superior, James Burrus, who then forwarded the complaint back down to Welken.
Days later, in an unscheduled interim performance review, Welken gave Turner her first negative marks in 21 years, rating her “minimally acceptable/unacceptable.” Two more negative reviews followed that year, and despite her protests, FBI managers transferred Turner to a Minneapolis desk job, which she began in May 2000.
Things did not go well in Minneapolis: By May 2003, the bureau said they intended to fire Turner because her performance did “not meet expectations.” She said she received few job assignments in her area of expertise, and the year before, she accused agents in Minneapolis of stealing a Tiffany crystal globe from the wreckage of the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. She reported the theft to other federal authorities, and the Department of Justice’s inspector general later confirmed the allegation.
Still, Turner resigned in October 2003, before the firing process could be completed. The jury Monday that Welken’s negative performance reviews were retaliatory — but the involuntary transfer was not. And a separate case remained before the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General, pertaining to the FBI’s push to fire her after her report about the Tiffany globe. That case was on hold, pending the outcome of Monday’s verdict — which, like Turner, Kohn called “a complete vindication” with national implications.
“The culture of the FBI has been one to punish employees that have attempted to come forward,” he said. “They knew that documentation was wrong, and they refused to chase it. One can only hope the FBI will reform its ways.”
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa (R) would add the following in an FBI oversight hearing on May 16, 2012:
By delaying justice for FBI whistleblowers, Director Robert S. Mueller III is sending a message to all personnel in the FBI that telling the truth about malfeasance and/or criminal misconduct, will result in retaliation, and reprisal. The shameful treatment of FBI whistleblowers must stop. FBI Special Agent Jane Turner, a highly regarded and decorated FBI agent, blew the whistle on theft from Ground Zero after 9/11 and was constructively discharged by Director Mueller for “embarrassing the Bureau”. Even after the Department of Justice (DOJ) ruled in SA Turner’s favor, declaring her a whistleblower, Director Mueller and the FBI have blocked, delayed and continued their campaign of retaliation and reprisal against her, forcing her Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) case to be bottled up at the DOJ for over ten years. This shameful and long running retaliation against FBI whistleblowers must stop.
After twenty-five years of faithful, and honorable service as a Special Agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, I was constructively discharged after submitting to FBI management evidence of malfeasance and criminal activity of fellow FBI agents, as well as evidence on the theft of artifacts from Ground Zero after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Prior to providing FBI officials proof of misconduct by FBI managers, I had been consistently rated as ‘Exceptional’ or ‘Superior’ in my duties. The United States Attorney and the Assistant United States Attorney for the Department of Justice, who I had the privilege of working closely with in a highly specific jurisdictional area for the FBI, described my investigative abilities and accomplishments as one of the best, if not the best in the nation.
After notifying senior management and the Office of Professional Responsibility for the FBI of theft of evidence by FBI personnel, and the removal of official paperwork from case files that corroborated criminal behavior by FBI agents, I suffered retaliation and reprisal.
At one point, a senior official offered me a favorable and highly desirable assignment if I would drop all allegations of misconduct by FBI managers. I refused.
Although Director Mueller has publicly stated that the FBI does not retaliate against whistleblowers, I am here today to stand as a witness that retaliation and reprisal is alive and well at the FBI. I stand shoulder to shoulder with Sibel Edmonds and every other FBI whistleblower who has exposed wrongdoing, and suffered terrible consequences. Whistleblowers in the FBI lose their career, their financial stability, and are subjected to terrible reprisals. These reprisals take the form of lower performance reports, isolation, ostracism, loss of assignments and equipment, and diminished status. From my contacts with other FBI whistleblowers, specifically through a website dedicated to FBI whistleblowers (fbiwhistlestop.com), I have discovered that the treatment of FBI whistleblowers is consistent, typical, and routine.
FBI whistleblowers are subjected to a series of debilitating actions taken by senior FBI officials in order to not only break the whistleblower, but also send a message to everyone in the FBI that whistleblowing will not be tolerated, and will clearly be retaliated against. Personnel in the FBI are fully aware that protection for whistleblowers is non-existent. The names of FBI whistleblowers from Fred Whitehurst onward, are known in every FBI office, by every FBI agent, not because of what the whistleblower brought to light, changed, or sacrificed, but rather for what the FBI did to the whistleblower.[/dropshadowbox]